San Antonio, Do We Have a Problem?

How New Codes Force Decisions in Preparing Multi-tenant Commercial Properties

San Antonio published a technical bulletin last year that states that all multi-tenant buildings must have the insulation installed at shell phase (single tenant buildings do not). Other municipalities may go the same direction as San Antonio.

One concern we have been hearing from quite a few architect and engineer contacts recently is the concern over insulating retail buildings to the 2015 IECC energy codes. Many times, these multi-tenant retail developments are designed and built before the property has been fully leased. They may have an anchor tenant in mind, but much of the building may be speculative. In the past, developers were able to build a “cold dark shell” building and wait for a tenant to sign up for a lease in order to finish the tenant improvements (TI) of the interior (interior walls, sheetrock, paint, lighting, electrical, etc.). However, with the new building code it may become a mandate to have the insulation installed at the shell building phase rather than leaving it to the tenant phase.

This complexity in timing is making it difficult for developers because it moves more cost earlier in the project, and causes them to install parts of the interior walls and electrical prior to knowing who is going to be in the space and how they are going to want it finished out.

Projects constructed using CMU or concrete tilt panel would require insulation on the outside of the wall during initial construction (which is not as common in Texas). Otherwise contractors would have to figure out a way to install the continuous insulation system on the inside and meet fire code requirements. Usually, this would mean that the sheetrock (fire ignition barrier) is installed over the insulation, which is something building owners want to avoid until they have a tenant ready to take the space.

The cost of building two walls for CMU and concrete tilt is a serious issue for that type of construction in retail. One structural engineer in San Antonio who does a lot of concrete tilt design says that for retail buildings, tilt panel is going to get phased out.

Multi-tenant retail developments continue to pique the interest of investors and developers for their flexibility of use, as well as for less investment volatility. However, with more stringent building codes in place, traditional wall systems such as tilt-up would require additional expense and time to meet code requirements. The Bautex Block Wall System is an all-in-one solution for cost, construction time, structure, fire resistance, and continuous insulation. There are no additional installation steps to meet the new energy codes and tenants are allowed the same flexibility to finish the inside of the wall as they see fit. Developers also appreciate a wall system that allows them to follow business-as-usual with multi-tenant buildings.